3 October 2018

High-level reception on UHC leaves no one behind: working together towards good health and wellbeing

High-level health initiatives joined hands during the 73rd UN General Assembly

UHC2030, with collaborating partners, organised a high-level event during the 73rd UNGA in New York, USA on 26 September 2018 at 18.00-20.30.

It was a step to both increase momentum and identify opportunities for greater collaboration and synergies. With a packed room of over 300 UHC advocates from around the world, including Governments, civil society, development partners, the private sector and youth, the drive for progress towards UHC was sharply in focus.

The co-chairs of the UHC2030 Steering Committee served as joint-moderators of this event. 

“Many years ago, people died of violence, famine and disease, but today, they die of lack of justice. Because we know better. We have the science to help them. And the resources to do so,” said UHC2030 co-chair Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO, AMREF Health Africa, introducing the significance of this global movement for UHC. 

“Universal health coverage is universal. It’s for all countries, and every person. Every person wherever they are should be able to access and afford quality health services. All countries need to be working on this agenda. Our own movement, UHC2030, provides a multi-stakeholder platform for governments, development partners, civil society and the private sector to promote collaborative work,” said UHC2030 co-chair Prof. Ilona Kickbusch, Director of the Global Health Centre, The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.

Welcome remarks

The Government of Japan and the Government of Thailand jointly welcomed distinguished guests with the following remarks. 

“Health is the foundation of peace and security. The enjoyment of the highest attainable standards of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being. All of us here must contribute to protecting this fundamental right,” said H.E. Mr. Katsunobu Kato, Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan. 

“We have seen so many countries make remarkable progress. Those countries share one thing in common. Strong, popular political commitment that truly responds to the people’s needs, moving us closer to our goals,” said H.E. Mr. Virasakdi Futrakul, Deputy Foreign Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand.

Keynote addresses 

Ms. Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations said, “Each country must walk its own path toward universal health coverage. Political commitment is going to continue to be paramount, while civil society must continue to hold our leaders to account. The UN system commits to stand firmly with all of you on this journey to universal health coverage. So let’s unite, boldly and quickly, behind efficient universal health coverage, to ensure health and justice for all.”

H.E. Nikolai Astrup, Minister of International Development, Norway said, It is not enough to commit to health. Universal health coverage implies investing in people as part of a nation’s development strategy. To have a healthy economy and society, we must protect life and health. We must also improve education, work productivity and meaningful employment. What is required is purposeful leadership on health, education, protecting the environment and creating jobs.”

Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President, The World Bank Group, said, “Aspirations, especially of young people, around the world, are exploding…when satisfaction goes up, aspirations go up…Universal health coverage is the right answer. It’s where we all need to go…my job is to go back and find a way to convince heads of state and ministers of finance to take this seriously.”

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO said, “Do not think achieving UHC is someone else’s job, let me remind you that after all, UHC starts with you. There is something that all of us can do to take our countries closer to UHC, whether that is voting for someone or revising an entire health system…because UHC is a global movement.”

Statements from initiatives and constituencies

H.E. Mr. Gilberto Occhi, Minister of Health, Brazil said, “I am convinced that we need to reinforce governments’ commitments and society’s involvement in health issues, for we will only be successful if our engagement represents effective improvements in the reduction of inequalities and in the guarantee that all have access to quality, integrated universal health care, in a timely manner and according to their needs.”

H.E. Dr. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health, Jamaica said, “Jamaica is committed to working together to realise UHC, we must learn from each other’s experiences and share resources if we are to achieve this. To succeed we need to collaborate meaningfully, demonstrate north-south and south-south cooperation and critically private-public civil society partnerships; otherwise our pursuit of a safer and healthier world by 2030 will be futile.”

The Rt Hon Alistair Burt, Minister of State for International Development and Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the United Kingdom stated the UK’s commitment to achieving UHC and said, “We must ensure that the poor and marginalised gain access to good quality and essential health services without falling into financial hardship. We need to work in true partnership with those we are seeking to help. As partners we should ask ourselves: are we supporting governments’ own health priorities? Are we working together as we should?”

Gavi, the Vaccines Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDs, TB and Malaria and the Global Financing Facility (also known as the 3Gs) presented a section together, demonstrating their commitment to close collaborative working. 

Speaking about the 3Gs, Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccines Alliance said, “We are all country-centric and country led and are there to support countries in moving forward.” He added, “There is no UHC without PHC. And you know what? We can’t afford UHC and PHC without prevention. The most powerful prevention of course is vaccines.”

Mr. Peter Sands, Executive Director of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said. “There is an oft-repeated and to my mind false dichotomy between pursuing strategies to attack and address particular diseases and the pursuit of UHC. The reality is that the Global Fund is not going to achieve its objectives without health systems that are truly universal, reaching out to the poorest and marginalised key populations. The other reality is that a health system that doesn’t protect is people from AIDS, TB and malaria is not achieving the objectives of UHC. We need both.” 

Dr. Mariam Claeson, Director of the Global Financing Facility spoke about leveraging innovation and investments for UHC. “At the GFF we do agree that it requires a harmonised approach to reach UHC, and the SDGs. It’s only by working together, each of us bringing our comparative advantage to support country plans, that we can have an impact.”

H.E. Amira El Fadil, African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs said, “UHC is about individuals, about those who cannot afford health services. How are we going to make sure that these poor individuals, these poor families and poor communities access the health service? How are we going to do this? We need to speak about the social determinants of health, we need to speak about poverty, poverty alleviation and how every citizen can social security and social protection. […] This can be done if we work together: governments, development partners, civil society, and the private sector."

Ms. Sarita Nayyar, Member of the Managing Board, Chief Operating Officer USA, the World Economic Forum (WEF) spoke about working with the private sector to achieve UHC. “Global health and health care is one of the top priorities for WEF. We have over 80 private sector organisations and partners across industry working with governments and international organisations. It is because of this that WEF was invited to join UHC2030 Steering Committee and to host the private sector constituency of the partnership.”

Dr. Khuất Thị Hải Oanh, Executive Director, Centre for Supporting Community Development and representative for the UHC2030 Civil Society Engagement Mechanism Advisory Group, spoke about cross-programmatic advocacy for UHC. “We have hundreds of thousands of civil society organisations around the world. We are working on different health programmes, but there is one thing we share in common: we work for the wellbeing of people. It doesn’t matter if we work on vaccination, sanitation, nutrition, HIV, malaria, TB; at the end of the day we share a common goal and that is the wellbeing of the human. For this reason, we cherish UHC and are fully committed to working for UHC.”

Health-related youth group speakers

At the end of the event, speakers from a health-related Youth Group made key points about the need to engage young people with UHC. Ms. Shanelle Hall, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF moderated and introduce the youth panellists: Ms. Hiba Ghandour, IFMSA; Mr. Mo Barry, Chair of HIV Young Leaders Fund; Ms. Marian Sedlak, IFMSA; Ms. Sanne de Wit, IFMSA; Ms. Aisha Matiko, Restless Development; Ms. Lucy Fagan, Youth Network. “Youth can reveal untold stories, we should be part of the change for UHC,” said one of the youth panellists.

Dr. Batool Alwahdani, Vice-President for External Affair, IFMSA made an appeal to all the other stakeholder groups in the room. “We are here to complain that youth are left behind in UHC! We’re here to tell you that we need to be ambitious, creative and smart to achieve UHC. As UHC is all about leaving no one behind, please don’t leave youth behind. If you want UHC to be achieved, please involve us.” 

Dr. Alexey Tsoy, Vice Minister of Healthcare, Kazakhstan, spoke about The Astana Declaration on Primary Health Care: From Alma-Ata towards Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals and about the importance of bringing young people into the debates and conferences on PHC and UHC, “We have a consensus that primary health care is the door to better health for our people. The Government of Kazakhstan looks forward to working with all of you in our path forward for UHC.” 

UHC2030 welcomes new members

The event started with a ceremonial signing session of the UHC2030 Global Compact for progress towards universal health coverage, and we were delighted to welcome seven new signatories

“We gather here, as friends old and new, to affirm two essential truths: The first is that the global movement for universal health coverage is strong and growing stronger. The second is that the road ahead is not easy, and will require great courage, intelligence and leadership,” said Dr. Naveen Rao, Managing Director, Health and Senior Advisor to the President, The Rockefeller Foundation who presided over the ceremony.

The UHC2030 Global Compact for progress towards UHC was signed by the following new members, who we warmly welcome: 

H.E. Mr. Kubatbek Boronov, The First Vice Prime Minister of Kyrgyz Republic 

H.E. Ms. Jacqueline Lydia Mikolo, Ministre de la Santé et de la Population, Congo

H.E. Dr. Davit Sergeenko, Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, Georgia

Dr. Mariam Claeson, Director, The Global Financing Facility

Mr. James Sale Health & Finance Policy Adviser, Save the Children UK

Ms. Lisa M. Hilmi, Executive Director, CORE Group

Ms. Juliet Onyinyechi Obi and Mr. Daniel Chang, International Pharmaceutical Students' Federation

James Sale from Save the Children, spoke on behalf of the UHC2030 Civil Society Engagement Mechanism and all CSOs who have recently joined UHC2030.  “Universal health coverage is the overarching priority for our health sector development goals and is rooted in the right to health. Universal health coverage will only be achieved through national action supported by the global community, and critically with the engagement of civil society. Civil society is often best placed to gain access to, represent, and prioritise the most marginalised key populations, and ensure that no one is left behind.” 

Event hosts and organisers

The Government of Thailand and the Government of Japan co-hosted the event, with the following governments as co-sponsors: Brazil, Germany, Ghana, Jamaica, Norway, South Africa, Uruguay, and the UK. Co-organisers were: UHC2030, World Health Organization, the World Bank Group, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliane, the Global Financing Facility and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Supporting organisations were: UHC2030 Civil Society Engagement Mechanism (CSEM), The World Economic Forum (WEF), UNAIDS, NCD Alliance, International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), the Rockefeller Foundation and UNICEF.


Animation from UHC2030 : we can all contribute to achieving universal health coverage

Social media toolkit and graphic on UHC2030 cross-programmatic work

Video of whole UNGA event live streamed through Twitter 

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